Jordan Chouanard will have to earn his final prep wrestling goal.
The Aitkin senior enters the Class 1A state individual tournament Friday and Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul with a 35-1 record and as the No. 2-ranked 152-pounder.
His road to the championship will likely be paved with fellow ranked opponents. Chouanard opens his fourth state tournament against fourth-ranked Alex Lessman of Minneota (32-7). Lessman fell to Chouanard in last year’s state tournament by a 5-3 score. Chouanard went on to finish third with Lessman losing in the wrestlebacks.
“He wrestled the kid last year and he is very tough at leg riding,” said Aitkin head coach Kevin Lamke. “We’ve worked on things to stop him from that. Jordan is confident, but he’ll be more confident if he can get that first one under his belt.”
On Chouanard’s side of the bracket are sixth-ranked Luke Norland of Jackson County Central, third-ranked Rij Koehnen of Frazee and ninth-ranked Kyle Martineau of West Central.
On the other side is top-ranked Curt Maas of Medford (39-1). It was Maas who sent Chouanard to the wrestlebacks with a 9-1 victory in the semifinals.
Maas opens with Pierz’s Brad Meyer (33-7). Should Meyer knock off last year’s 145-pound champion, he would then likely face this year’s top-ranked 145-pounder Chris Pfarr.
Meyer is one of nine Pioneers competing in the individual tournament. The Pierz team competes in the state team tournament Thursday.
“That’s very exciting,” said Pierz head coach Simon Waltman. “Our kids performed very well in the section tournament. They worked very hard to get to this point and because of that, a number of them were able to qualify for the state individuals.”
The key for Pierz’s Chris Ortman (120-pound sophomore) will be his first match. The sixth-ranked Ortman, who missed the state team and individual tournament last year because of injury, opens this year’s individual state tournament with fourth-ranked Mick Roemer of Wabasha-Kellogg (36-5).
Should Ortman, who competed in state as an eighth-grader, get past that first round he would not face another ranked opponent until the semifinals.
“Chris has been consistent for us all year,” said Waltman. “He’s just a smooth wrestler.”
Ortman owns a 33-8 record. Wadena-Deer Creek’s Mitch Steffens has a 20-4 record and is the highest ranked (No. 3) 113-pounder on his side of the bracket. The Wolverines’ senior will open against Badger/Greenbush-Middle River’s Devin Dostal (33-7).
This will be Steffens’ second state tournament.
The 170-pound bracket features Pierz’s Nathan Tomala. The third-ranked wrestler is 35-3 and will face sixth-ranked TeJay Wojchowski in his opening round match. Tomala went 0-2 last year at state. This is his third state tournament.
“He has the experience and he knows what it’s all about and what it takes to win down there,” Waltman said. “He is a three-time section champion. No. 1-ranked Cooper Moore is on the other side of the bracket so we’re really excited about his opportunity.”
Also on the other side is Aitkin’s Adam Bast, who is making his first state appearance. The junior enters with a 26-7 record and will go up against unranked Alex Jackson of Kenyon-Wanamingo (27-9).
“Every one of our guys has an opening match that is winnable,” said Lamke. “Every one has to take advantage of the opportunities and get that first win.
“Adam has a lot of confidence in himself. It will be his first time down there and it will be different looking at that big place as a wrestler instead of in the stands.”
Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale freshman Dillon Card is ranked sixth at 182 and will open against Pierz junior Nick Lochner (19-11). That is the only match that pits two area wrestlers against each other.
Card’s teammate, Colin Turchin, enters the heavyweight bracket with a 37-1 record and No. 2 ranking. He opens with Minneapolis Patrick Henry’s Eric Shaw (22-12). Also on his side of the bracket is top-ranked Alex Yeager, the defending state champion.
Aitkin’s 10th-ranked Cooper Blau is on the other side of the heavyweight bracket. He opens with Blooming Prairie’s Jarrod Grunklee.
“(Blau) is finally believing that he can score off the bottom and in the heavyweight matches those are key points because many of the matches are 1-0 or 2-1 so getting those first points are important,” said Lamke. “He’s worked hard to improve himself and he’s wrestling really well.”
Class 1A wrestlers
106: Pierz’s Kolton Eischens (35-7) vs. St. James’ Cody Hanson (34-6)
113: Pierz’s Evan Woitalla (32-9) vs. Minneota’s Bryce Bruner (28-11); Wadena-Deer Creek’s Mitch Steffens (20-4) vs. Badger/Greenbush-Middle River’s Devin Dostal (33-7)
120: Pierz’s Chris Ortman (33-8) vs. Wabasha-Kellogg’s Mick Roemer (36-5)
132: Aitkin’s Brian Wold (27-7) vs. Kimball’s Marcus Hamer (37-5)
145: Pierz’s Alex Julich (19-12) vs. Mahnomen/Waubun’s Garret Hoffner (38-0)
152: Aitkin’s Jordan Chouanard (35-1) vs. Minneota’s Alex Lessman (32-7); Pierz’s Brad Meyer (33-7) vs. Medford’s Curt Maas (39-1)
160: Aitkin’s Isaac Novak (12-6) vs. Walker-Hackensack-Akeley’s Joe Anderson (32-5)
170: Aitkin’s Adam Bast (26-7) vs. Kenyon-Wanamingo’s Alex Jackson (27-9); Pierz’s Nathan Tomala (35-3) vs. Badger/Greenbush-Middle River’s TeJay Wojchowski (32-4)
182: Pierz’s Nick Lochner (19-11) vs. Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale’s Dillon Card (37-3)
195: Pierz’s Dustin Waytashek (29-11) vs. Minneota’s Adam Josephson (39-1)
220: Pierz’s Ryley Smude (24-14) vs. Minneota’s Josh VanOverbeke (37-1); Wadena-Deer Creek’s Tony Reurink (27-8) vs. Sibley East’s Miah Dufrane (22-17)
285: Aitkin’s Cooper Blau (23-10) vs. Blooming Prairie’s Jarrod Grunklee (29-10); Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale’s Colin Turchin (37-11) vs. Minneapolis Patrick Henry’s Eric Shaw (22-12)
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5856.